In the past, it was pretty easy to tell how successful an artist or band was. All you had to do was look at their album sales. However, in this digital age, album sales don't have as much weight when it comes to defining success. So what are the new metrics for success in the music industry?
Quite honestly, it depends. There are literally hundreds of ways to make music your career, and that's if we just focus in on "traditional" artists and bands instead of the bigger picture of session musicians, wedding DJs, film composers, jingle writers, etc. So, depending on what you focus on, you'll have different metrics that define your success. For example, for a group like Pomplamoose, YouTube subscribers and Patreon supporters will matter a lot more than the tickets or albums they sell, while a DJ's success will be more dependent on the number of shows he or she books.
Regardless of what path your career takes, there are some metrics for success that are relevant to all musicians.
Whether you're trying to sell albums, sell tickets, book house concerts, or get people to watch your videos on YouTube, having great fan engagement is key. This point is relevant across all channels: social media, your email list, your website or blog, and your live shows.
So what is engagement? It's the number of people who actually respond to you in some way or another. Likes, retweets, comments, messages, subscribes, shares, click-throughs, and email opens are all forms of engagement. But engagement doesn't end online; that fan who's front and center at your gig is also engaged.
Think about it like this: if you have a fanbase but no one is responding to your posts on Facebook, your emails have terrible click-through rates, and people at your shows are more interested in their drinks than your music, are you really successful?
Every artist has a key action they're trying to get their fans to take, whether it be watching a video, supporting them on Patreon, or buying an album. And if no one is engaging with your communications by clicking through, liking, or responding, they're probably not taking that key action either.
Unfortunately, unlike album sales, engagement isn't just a simple number you can track. This is where analytics comes in, and luckily, they're getting more and more user-friendly and easy to understand. All of your social media channels will have analytics built in, you can use Google Analytics for your website, and you'll be able to track your opens and click-through rates on emails you send through services like Mailchimp and FanBridge.
To improve your engagement, experiment with your posts, emails, and performance, see which ones get the most engagement, and do more of that. It will be a constant process of experimenting, looking at the results, and improving your messages.
If you want to learn more about building up your fan engagement, check out these free social media lessons.
This is another big one. Unlike social media, your email list is something you own. Social media platforms come and go, and the way they allow you to communicate with your fans also changes. Myspace used to be the platform for musicians and bands, but after a few years, it's completely irrelevant. As much as we try to deny it, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram could face the same fate, and if they go under, so does your connection with your fans on those platforms.
Also, keep in mind that social media is primarily – ready for this? – a social platform. People log in to Facebook or scroll through Twitter to be entertained and to socialize with friends, whereas email is still very much a buyer's platform. That being said, your email list is an awesome tool to drive your fans to take that key action, whether it be buying your album or coming to your gig.
To grow your email list, think about why people sign up for emails (and why people stay subscribed to lists). Generally, it's to get special discounts, early offers, exclusive information, and product notices. If they can get the same information on Twitter, why would they give you their email address?
Offering a free track or two is a great incentive to get people to sign up. But after that, you need to focus on keeping them subscribed with great, exclusive content. You can give them early access to all music or videos you release, exclusive behind-the-scenes stories and photos, and even special discounts.
Download this music promotion guide for free to learn the best strategies to get your entire online presence working together. You'll learn how to grow your fanbase, how to develop your connection with your fans, and how to drive them to buy.
Dave Kusek is the founder of the New Artist Model, an online music business school for independent musicians, performers, recording artists, producers, managers, and songwriters. He is also the founder of Berklee Online, co-author of The Future of Music, and a member of the team who brought midi to the market.